U-Multirank Allows Users to Rank Top World Colleges

Taking the idea that 'one size does not fit all' when it comes to international university rankings, U-Multirank is a tool that allows users to choose the factors they wish to incorporate when ranking a college or university. This personalized ranking system has been referred to as a 'revolutionary method' that could impact higher-education systems around the world.

U-Multirank: The Good. . .

Supported by the European Commission and developed by a consortium led by the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies, the Web-based U-Multirank system is the first individualized ranking system of its kind. For instance, a student can log on and select ranking indicators pertaining to teaching and learning and ignore those for international orientation or research involvement.

Critics of international ranking systems say that existing rankings fail to take into account 'internal variance' and that they concentrate more on a university's research capabilities and less on performance. Developers of the U-Multirank hope to overcome these issues by allowing users to determine the relevance of each indicator when ranking a specific institution, thus making the ranking more 'multi-dimensional'.

European schools hope the U-Multirank system affords them better representation. Currently, Chinese, British and American universities tend to land in top spots in international rankings such as those produced by Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Times Higher Education.

The European universities should get their wish: Two-thirds of universities completing the questionnaire used in the feasibility study conducted during the development of U-Multirank are European institutions. Chinese and American universities largely refused to participate in the project.

. . .and the Bad

Is the system perfect? No, some say. At a recent conference in Brussels, where the U-Multirank was demonstrated, the main complaint was that the interface was not user-friendly. While a leader of the project was surprised at this finding, it was noted that the issue would be addressed in the coming months.

Those who developed the system themselves noted that the tool still needs tweaking. One admitted that regional engagement indicators, for example, were hard to come by so that a particular area might not be well-represented. A leading expert on rankings added that indicators for quality remain 'controversial.'

Still, that same expert also stated that the system was a 'good start'. And developers still have a chance to fix some of the quirks noted during the system's demonstration: the unveiling of the complete U-Multirank project is slated for fall 2011. Feedback from the test run will be used as the consortium continues to work toward finalizing the system.

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